046 - How To Break Bad Habits

Bad habits are hard to break, it’s true. Here’s how I broke one of my worst

Image by A. Xromatik

Bad habits are hard to break, it’s true. Here’s how I broke one of my worst

Welcome to the Editor’s Journal; A daily thought on writing, the creative process, art, work, the world and how it all goes together. Every morning I rise early, I sit here in the quiet of my kitchen and I write whatever’s prominent. There’s no clever headlines and no script, just open and honest thoughts. I hope you enjoy the read. If you like this article please offer some love by hitting the 💚 on the left

I took up smoking when I was about 13 or 14.

I was experimenting. I wanted to be cool so I worked hard at it despite the fact that it made me sick and cigarettes tasted horrible.

I had an idea in my head of what it meant to be a smoker, a cultural notion and I wanted to be that.

My father smoked. I went to pubs with him where other people smoked. People smoked on the bus, in the cinema and in the movies you went to see in the cinema.

Everywhere you looked smoking was condoned and tolerated by society. Yet at the same token it was recognised that smoking caused respiratory illness and lung cancer.

But the negatives didn’t matter. I wanted to be a cool kid so I kept at it until it became tolerable.

Then I developed the habit and I became addicted to the daily dose of nicotine. I’d buy one golfball chewing gum in the local shop on the way home so I could mask the smell on my breath.

My new habit wasn’t easily discovered because there was always a smell of cigarettes in our house when I was a kid. So happy days I thought.

Positive Habits: The Ally Of The Creative

The reason I’m telling you this story is because I recognise how important habits are for generating success, (whatever success happens to be for you).

Momentum doesn’t care for what we do, it will get behind any activity once we practice it enough and that activity will eventually become programed into out behaviour.

To that extent, where we fail to consciously decide and act in the direction of our goals, other shit will take over and take us off on whatever route it chooses.

It almost develops a consciousness of its own, so for the creative person, establishing creative habits is vital to producing our best work.

Neurologically speaking, habits become built into the very connections in the brain and the more we practice the stronger those neurological connections become.

The brain is said to be “plastic” insofar as no matter what, it will find away to maintain development in a given direction. It is highly adaptable and seems to follow unquestioning this momentum I’m speaking of.

Our behaviours become predictable.

Marketers know this very well and they take full advantage of it. Most of us are on autopilot, completely asleep at the wheel, unaware of how are behaviours are formed.

At this point I could go off on a tangent and talk about free will, but that’s for another day.

This morning I want to stick with habits.

I’m Focusing On Habits: I’ve got some bad habits I want to overcome and I have some new habits I want to establish. You see I know that through establishing good habits (momentum of positive behaviour) I can get to where I want to go. So I’ll be writing on this subject for the next few months, exploring what psychology and neuroscience say about developing creativity. Follow all new articles here.

Time To Kick The Habit

Eventually after about 7 or 8 years of smoking I realised that it was a bad idea and tried to give them up.

But despite many efforts nothing changed.

The practice had been so firmly engrained into the wiring of my brain and my body that every attempt I made met failure.

Everywhere I went I was reminded of smoking. My friends, the places I frequented, the things I did at home.

After a meal I would have a smoke

When I made a cup of coffee I would have a smoke

When I went to the bar with friends I would have a MANY smokes.

Everything I did was hooked into the habit of smoking and everything I did to counter the smoking habit failed.

Here lies the greatest hurdle: Environment.

Then something changed.

I met Joanne, now my wife. Suddenly I wasn’t going to same places so often and I wasn’t hanging around with the same people so often.

In restaurants we sat in the non-smoking section (yes there was smoking in restaurants at the time). Around the same time smoking in cinemas had been banned.

In short, my environment changed so there was an opportunity for me to change my filthy habit.

Around the same time Joanne went from not minding if I smoked to be a constant nag. Every time I took out a cigarette I was asked to give them up.

So I decided to.

That was 20 years ago or more now and it was the best decision that I ever managed to fulfill.

When I quit, I decided to stay away from bars for several months. I made myself a flicky-hand-gadget that I kept in my pocket all the time. When the urge to smoke came on me I’d reach for the flicky-hand-gadget thing and focus on it as it moved repetitively through my fingers.

It was kind of like one of those fidget spinner things that are so popular these days.

Damn it! I knew I should have patented that!

They were the two main things I did. Other things included changing my diet and working out regularly.

Altogether, everything I did lended itself to a change in my habits. I did falter at times though. I had the odd lapse, but those lapses didn’t kill my new habit (not smoking).

My change in behaviour had become established to such an extent that it had momentum in the direction I wanted.

Not All Habits Are Made Equal

I accept that giving up smoking is not necessarily the same for everyone. I also accept that giving up smoking is not the same as giving up bad eating habits or hard drugs, or establishing a daily writing practice.

But the fundamentals are the same.

We’ve got psychological and neurological hooks into everything we do. Changing our surroundings and the people we associate with on a regular basis helps us release those hooks and change unwanted behaviours.

In changing environment however, we’ve got to be careful because returning to the old environment can trigger those old unwanted behaviours.

There’s a lot of material out there on building new habits and breaking old ones. But for me in all that I’ve read thus far there is something missing.

Right now I can’t quite put my finger on it. But I’m sure I’ll find it, not least because I want to make some changes to my own life.

In order to make those changes, for good this time and not just for a week or two, I need to get to bottom of it all.

If you’d like to follow along and read my most detailed articles on developing a creative habit then best to join me here. I’ll be sharing more detailed info on what psychology and neuroscience say about habits.

That’s it for now. If you liked this article please offer some love by hitting the 💚 on the left.

See you in the morrow.

I’m Focusing On Habits: I’ve got some bad habits I want to overcome and I have some new habits I want to establish. You see I know that through establishing good habits (momentum of positive behaviour) I can get to where I want to go. So I’ll be writing on this subject for the next few months, exploring what psychology and neuroscience say about developing creativity. Follow all new articles here.

Like More of This Kind of Thing?

Howdy, I’m Larry, Writer & Artist. Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. I write about art, creativity, business & marketing. When I’m not doing that I write short stories about the ordinary lives of people and the challenges they face. My stuff can be edgy, hard hitting, and sometimes controversial, but never contrived. If that’s your bag you can Sign-up To Sunday Letters Here.